How to Start Making Great Pizza at Home

If you want to make great pizza at home, you need the right tools for the job.

Fortunately, the list isn’t long and the items aren’t super expensive.  In fact, you can buy everything for less than the cost of take out from your local hipster pizza joint.

Here’s what you need.

 

1. Scale 

Water, flour, leavening and salt.  These are the building blocks for making great pizza.  Because we are working with so few ingredients, we need to be precise with the quantity of each ingredient in our dough formula.  This is especially true when you’re making pizza at home.   The smaller the batch, the smaller the margin of error.  So, to ensure accuracy we need to weigh out our ingredients.

I don’t care how good you are measuring ingredients with a cup or spoon.  It you want to make awesome pizza you need a scale.

Screw volume.  Focus on weight.  Its what professional bakers and pizzaiolos do.  You can do it too.

A small digital scale, preferably one that measures grams, costs $15.  Buy one.

 

2. Cast iron pan

Why do people who own pizza stones love to tell the world about it?

Everytime someone tells me they own a pizza stone, I feel like they expect me to give them professional props.  Please stop!

Here’s the truth about pizza stones.  They are a great trivet.   Or for roasting a chicken.  But for making great pizza at home use a cast iron pan instead.

Cast iron has two clear advantages.

First, the heavy steel absorbs and distributes heat better than the stone.  A pizza stone, depending on the thickness, requires a least a one hour preheat for it to achieve the desired heat.  Cast iron pan? 20-30 minutes.

If you’re only making one pizza, this difference may not be a big deal.  But if you plan on making multiple pizzas, this is where cast iron really shines.

No only is the recovery time on cast iron quicker, but you can “cheat” and heat it on the stove top over a hot flame.  I do this all the time and it works great.

The second advantage of a cast iron pan is the shape.  The flared sides reflect heat directly on your crust (a.k.a cornicione).  Your flat pizza stone doesn’t.

Added bonus to the flared sides: You can squirt water against them to instantly create steam and achieve an extra crispy crust.

 

3. Temperature gun

Ok, this item isn’t crucial, but its helpful.  And its fucking cool.

Prices have also come way down.  Ten years ago a decent “temp gun” cost a few hundred dollars.  Today you can buy one for $50-$70.

Taking the temperature of your oven and surface of your cast iron pan helps you figure out the “perfect” temperature range for baking pizzas.   Once you know the temperature your baking surface needs to achieve, its much easier to consistently bake multiple pies just right.

 

4. Bench scraper

This is an indispensible tool for anyone who works with dough.  Its also great for cleaning up.  I like these so much, I have two at home.  And I give them as Christmas presents.

 

5. Thermometer

Time and temperature are the “secret” ingredients for great pizza.

Unless you’re spending time around hard core pizza geeks you won’t read much about temperature in the average home pizza dough recipe.

If you’re just starting out I recommend taking the temperature of your core ingredients.  It only takes 30 seconds and can help you avoid making overblown down.   Or dough that takes forever to rise.   More on this later.

 

6. Good oven. 

There’s no way around this one.  If you have a shitty oven it will be nearly impossible to bake a great pizza.

Don’t despair.  You don’t need a 10K Wolf convection oven.

A decent oven that can achieve at least 550 degrees and can maintain that temperature is fine.

If access to a good oven is not an option, but a grill is, go with the grill.

 

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Ok, that’s it.

Questions? Having trouble sourcing one of the items above? Think I’m missing something?

Feel free to send me an email –  ian.gurfield@ianspizza.com